By Jose Miguel Gomez
I thought this year’s prison beauty pageant would be the same as in the past, a story of prisoners enjoying a day different from the rest that coincides with the Our Lady of Mercy holiday.
Colombia is a country of beauty queens and pageants. Each region has its annual fiestas that are centered around a beauty pageant. Dozens of them are chosen throughout the year to culminate in the selection of the single most beautiful Miss Colombia in Cartagena. There are pageants to elect a miss coffee, a miss honey, and the woman with the nicest buttocks, in this country that loves to brag about the beauty of its women. Surprisingly, there is even one to elect the best dressed donkey, and the ugliest man.
This day in El Buen Pastor Prison didn’t seem to be an exception. They have been electing their beauty queen here for the past decade. Their pageant is just like the Miss Universe one; they elect their queen and give her a crown, which is passed on the following year to the next winner.
I entered the room where stylists groomed and made up the contestants. There were seven contestants in all, one representing each of the prison’s seven sectors. Meanwhile the hundreds of prisoners in the audience were enjoying a party with last year’s queen, singing and dancing as they awaited the start of the pageant.
One contestant in particular seemed especially attractive, but I felt like she shied away from me after seeing the camera. I smiled and greeted her, but she ignored me after saying, “I don’t want photos.” The truth is it really didn’t bother me, but I couldn’t help thinking how this beautiful woman, only about 33 or 35 years old, ended up in there. The other girls were very nice and enjoyed the show. I imagined that they all felt pretty for a day, and could forget for a day their harsh reality and the fact that they were living imprisoned without their children or their families.